Alligator (1980) [REVIEW] | Don’t flush the reaper

Ah yes, Wally Gator’s origin story. Or maybe not.

This one actually has sort of faded into obscurity, but it shouldn’t because it’s arguably one of the better “killer animals” film of the 70/80s, and also is a “Jaws rip-off” of sorts, in the same way as the original Piranha, to be precise, since the script is also written by John Sayles, and it’s a good combination of straight killer animal flick and light-hearted, affectionate satire of the B-movie clichès. It definitely has a sense of humour, not just by downright having P.O.V. shots of the gator with the soundtrack playing almost the Jaws theme, by having people selling merchandise of the “monster”, but also by basing an entire movie about that urban legend. 🙂

Yeah, the premise sees a girl bringing home a pet gator from a “gator show” (or whatever you call it), but when the girl leaves the house to go to school, her father almost immediatly flushes the baby alligator down the toilet. The gator (previously named “Ramon” by the girl) actually manages to survive in the sewers, feeding off carcasses of dogs that were experimented upon and basically were jacked with hormones, eventually growing to a giant, innatural size.

A policeman with a troubled past discovers the animal while investigating the numerous disappearences of persons, animals and the frequent retrieval of body parts in the sewers, and after a while, the entire city is aware of the giant alligator, which prompts the police to action, but due to pressure from the CEO of the pharmaceutical company to the major, it’s mostly up to the cop and the reptile expert to find a way to kill it.

Yeah, there are obvious similarities to Jaws, not just as in we have an animal of unusual size or type that seems unstoppable despite the massive intervention of forces, but there are also parallels to be drawn between the main trio of this movie and Spielberg’s, despite them not having identical purpose for the narrative, as this movie has very likeable leads, yes, but definitely more douchebgas or in some way despicable characters that you bet are gonna become gator chow.

Hard to feel too bad when it could have been all avoided if people weren’t complete barbarians and didn’t shove live animals down the loo, because that’s a sensible solution. But then again, we wouldn’t have scenes like a gator erupting from the fuckin manholes in Chicago, so there’s that.

The cast is made of top notch actors like Robert Foster, Dean Jagger, Micheal V. Gazzo, the beloved character actor Henry Silva, and Alligator also happens to have Sue Lyon’s last screen role, here having a very small part as an ABC newswoman. Even Sydney Lassick of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest fame is here, pretty damn good cast.

One of the scenes that stood out to me is the gator attacking the wedding party, as in, it looked familiar… because 31 years later Mega Python VS Gatoroid would basically rip it off (kinda, but i can’t think of many monster movies with this specific scene), but of course with worse everything, this one is way better, with the gator going to town and crushing people with just its tail, good stuff!

Aside from that, i was surprised by the effects, the gator is mostly animatronic, but damn, the animatronic (which also malfunctioned like the shark one in Jaws) is really damn good, and even when it’s not on screen, the effects for the alligator and gore are pretty good, and you get some disgusting stuff like dogs’ carcasses eaten by rats with guts exposed, people eaten whole by the animal, or made legless, nothing that gory or shocking by today’s standard, but still good.

Good direction, fun script, great cast, fairly fast moving narrative, great effects, yeah, if you must do a killer alligator movie around such a stupid premise, have fun with it and put some effort, it pays off fairly well. Still holds up as a decent-good B-movie.

Apparently, there’s a direct-to-video “sequel”, again, like for the 1978’s Piranha… but whatever, let’s cover it as well!

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